This Fail of the Week doesn’t deserve to be tucked away at the bottom of the post. It’s something that has worried me the whole trip but hasn’t happened until now. I had written out this week’s post with the exception of some minor details and Anna wanted to read the draft to ensure her pictures matched. I connected the tablet to the WiFi at Brussels airport and uploaded to WordPress so Anna could look it up on the laptop. A blank post appeared on the website and when I checked the tablet it was blank too. The whole lot gone… not impressed! Especially since we’ve got a busy few days coming up so I can’t spend the time rewriting it entirely. The post was the best one yet. It was captivating and artistic – a true masterpiece. Now you’ll have to put up with the rush job that I’ve put together.
All good things must come to an end as they say. We boarded a plane heading for Poland and left my parents behind in France. I’m eternally grateful that my parents came halfway around the world to share our adventure with us and I hope they enjoyed their time with us as much as we did. I expressed my gratitude the best way I could, by shedding the odd tear when saying goodbye to Mum at the airport. I’m man enough to admit that I have a soft interior. Anna is the tough one of us two. We definitely covered some ground while we were all together, but also found some time to stop, relax and unwind. Brantôme is a very beautiful village so rest days definitely weren’t wasted days.
In our travels we stumbled upon an advertisement for a taste testing tour at Chateau de Jumilhac and it was only EUR11 per person. We registered for the Sunday evening tour and decided to explore the nearby area during the afternoon. We went to Nontron which was very quiet being a Sunday, but we still enjoyed walking down the main street and finding some nice vantage points for photos. Nontron is famous for their quality knives but the factory was closed. We then headed to the lake of Saint-Estèphe which was bustling. The “beach” comprised of 150m of sand and had a lifeguard on duty. It was a very popular option with swimmers and with local fisherman. Some of the fisherman had all the gear, but they all had empty buckets. Keeping an eye on the time, we walked halfway around the lake and headed for the car to make tracks for our chateau tour. Our punctuality was wasted however, because we were waiting 50 minutes for the tour to get underway.
The chateau is a very impressive structure and it’s easy to tell that the village was established around its presence. The tour took us through various sections and the guide explained how it began as a fortress and over the centries it was transformed into a chateau. The only downside was that the tour was only given in french, but Anna did a brilliant job of translating the commentary for us. She continues to amaze me with her knowledge of french. She obviously employed an under-promise over-deliver strategy. There were many stories told but the funniest was about the husband who locked his wife in the bedroom at the start of a siege to protect her but the war lasted for 30 years. Apparently the villagers kept feeding her and bringing water, but you’d think that they could’ve sought out a locksmith! The wine and food tasting was held in different rooms of the chateau, but the best were the foie gras, strawberries and escargot with garlic butter. Mmmm
The next morning we decided that we’d book ourselves in to paddle 12kms from Brantôme down to Bourdeilles in tandem canoes. The trip was very pleasant and it was nice to see the town from water level. It was a relatively easy paddle with the exception of 7 or so weirs that needed to be descended. The first one is right in the middle of Brantôme so people gather on the bridge to watch the paddlers try to make it over. Anna and I nailed it as we hit the weir with speed and smoothly tipped over the crest and went down. My parents hit the weir slower and became stuck. They then had to rock back and forward to get the canoe to seesaw over the edge. It went eventually, receiving a big cheer and applause from the spectators on the bridge. Later on the journey I got too cocky and tried to video going down one of the rapids with my camera but the canoe clipped a rock and turned sideways. We had to abandon ship and let it go down the rapids on its own. Oops. We all enjoyed the day but realised that the 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic must be a killer.
Tuesday we declared a “personal admin” day because we had laundry to catch up on and we needed to spend some time working out what we were doing in upcoming weeks. We didn’t have any WiFi at the house and there was only 1 cafe in town that had WiFi, but they were reluctant to hand out their password. We did have 3 coffees each while we researched, planned and booked. We’ve learned that having good WiFi at the accommodation helps us to keep on top of things by doing bits and pieces each night. I even managed to get my tax return done.
Looking at the tourist map it was easy to spot that a cluster of sights were positioned around Sarlat, so we decided to head there on Wednesday. This was our last big day trip so we made an earlier start which was lucky because it meant that the Sarlat markets were still in full swing. The markets snaked around the streets of the old town and ended in an indoor marketplace made from an old church. Mum and Anna went to a jewellery store to look for french Pandora charms. Mum bought the Eiffel Tower and I encouraged Anna to buy the croissant charm. If only they had charms of Nutella jars or Milka chocolate blocks, because that would summarise our french stint. Oh and baguettes.
From Sarlat we headed to Chateau de Commarque which is about 5kms off the main road and then you have to walk the last 600m to the valley floor. It was great to see because it was in original condition with the ruins of the surrounding village. We took some photos but headed back to the car for a picnic lunch and we even up’d the ante with a glass of Rose. From here we headed to Les Eyzies which is a very pretty small town which has 300m of houses all built into a cave along the side of the mountain. It’s such a strange concept for us Australians to have a house built into the side of a mountain but it seems to work. It was pretty hot in the sun so we indulged in a scoop of ice cream. Even dad had some and he typically avoids sweets.
Next up were the Grotte du Grand Roc caves which are natural caves that were discovered in the 1920’s. They contain terrific examples of stalactites and stalagmites along with other rock formations as well as the remains of a prehistoric shelter. The guided tour took about 30 mins and lead us through a series of tunnels. When they dug the tunnel they weren’t thinking about the 6’3″ Australian who would be visiting. Lots of head bumping but my hat softened the blow. There was also a 3D movie which showed what the area was like to live in as well as outlining what tools the cavemen developed. There are artefacts that suggest man first moved into the area around 30,000 years ago when they came across from Africa.
Since it was such a long day we opted for dinner at a restaurant in town which was right on the river but quite affordable. We had pizza and slow roasted duck which was great. We indulged in some local red wine and feel like we’ve worked out some regions that produce great reds.
Thursday was our first proper wet day in Brantôme so we had a slow start and rested. We had to pack our suitcases for the first time in weeks so we jumped on the opportunity to get out the vacuum and clean out the bottoms of our bags. It was strange to be packing again after staying in one spot for so long. I even forgot the layout of my suitcase which was quite amusing. We went back to the cafe and did some more travel planning just to ease the pressure when we’re in Poland.
Today we headed into downtown Bordeaux for a quick walk around before heading to the airport. The old town was much more attractive than I expected but we only had enough time to see some bits and pieces. My parents have booked a night’s accommodation on their way to Paris so they will have more time to explore on Sunday. It was a shame that we couldn’t stay any longer with my parents but my EU tourist visa is almost out of days.
Over the next week we’ll be making our way through Poland visiting Anna’s extended family. I wish I knew Polish. I think I’ll be nodding and smiling a lot!
Fail of the Week #2
I was ordering beers and I saw that they had a Monaco on the menu. Since we were in Monaco the week before and we didn’t try the local brew, I thought we’d give it a go. Unfortunately Monaco isn’t a regional brewery, it’s a cocktail of beer and raspberry lemonade. Dad was not impressed and I assume I’ll be hearing about this for a while.
Meal of the Week
Just to mix it up this week’s top meal was a lunch. Not the healthiest lunch, but a tasty one!
Our tips for France:
- Take your parents! It ends up waaaaay cheaper.
- Buy baguettes and croissants from a bakery where they don’t speak english. They’re the best.
- Avoid the toll roads if you’re doing a short road trip because you see so much more on backroads.
- The french are foodies so don’t be afraid to try new things.
- Low priced wine in the supermarket can still be really good wine.
- In the small towns English can be hard to come across.
- Picnic lunches can save you lots of money.
Average spend for France was AU$47.04pp per night for everything. How’s that for subsidised by the parents!